Cultural Emersion Experience

These sessions are limited. Register now to secure your spot!

Humans on the Move

A Chicago Experience

Day: 7 November 2024
Time: 9:00 – 12:00
Price: $35
Location: Institute of Cultural Affairs building, 4750 Sheridan Road, Chicago, IL
Facilitators: Jessica Leving Siegel, Dennis C. Roberts, Ariel L. Kaufman, Racquel Thiesen

Sign-up for the pre-conference workshop:

Full Description

Issues of migration and immigration are global issues. Research suggests that a movement of significant population groups in the decades to come will offer both challenges and opportunities (Khanna, Move: The Forces Uprooting Us, 2021). Global citizens flee their homes to escape violence, climate change, and seek economic opportunities. They are affected by immigration policies and the practices and beliefs about their mobility and migration all along their journey – from the local to the national to the global. What can be learned about the context for leadership, the political, social, economic, technical conditions impacting U.S. immigration policies and practices in the Chicago example?   

Community responses to immigration vary.  The issue has become contentious globally, including in the United States.  In the U.S. state of Texas, Governor Greg Abbott began the “drop-off” policy, sending buses full of asylum seekers to northern sanctuary cities, including to Chicago. Sanctuary jurisdictions were designed to provide refuge to asylum seekers.  Chicago and the state of Illinois welcomed immigrants sent from southern border states without notice or the opportunity to prepare for their arrival. Government, non-profit, and faith groups struggled with how, but ultimately found ways to support, over 40,000 immigrants. This support, sometimes protested due to the presence of underserved citizens who have been in Chicago all along, has remained steady and has grown increasingly effective because of private, public, and grass roots mobilization. Chicago community and governmental leaders believed that welcoming immigrants and non-documented citizens was in its best interest and chose a humanitarian and progressive response that has defined its politics over the decades. 

We will meet in the Institute of Cultural Affairs building and hear about a local humanitarian response, the North Shore Neighbors Say Bienvenidos (welcome) from its founder, Jessica Leving Siegel. This community leader, who mobilized Wilmette and other North Shore villages of Chicago, will share the story of the humanitarian response to the migrant crisis in their local communities. A particular focus will be on how public community leaders collaborated and coordinated their response, including the capacity to immediately respond when buses transporting immigrants suddenly arrived in Chicago. We will learn how and why this Chicago area community chose to welcome asylum seekers, refugees, and non-documented citizens. We will also learn from a community engagement experience with Nuevos Vecinos community organizers at their nearby Free Store.   

We will introduce and contextualize the issue of asylum seekers and refugees moving from their homes, the cause, and the dynamics that led to the U.S. border challenge and the response of sanctuary cities welcoming people as they transit to a new life and way of living.  ILA Public Leadership facilitators will guide discussion exploring the lessons learned from the Chicago experience. Deliberate on how public leadership can prepare and thereby better serve humans on the move. Raquel Thiesen, Director of Community Partnerships at Kansas Leadership Center, will lead a gap analysis to gain insights into the challenges and possibilities of creating welcoming support systems to “humans on the move’.   

Session Goals 

  1. Gain insights into global pressures on humans to move.  
  2. Learn from grassroots leaders about practical struggles and innovations, how to build bridges to create effective systems of support. 
  3. Community engagement in Uptown neighborhood (Denny, do we know whether we can help out in store?).  
  4. Gain understanding of global context and the gap in practice and future vision. 
  5. Learn an effective tool to transfer to other issues and contexts. 


Khanna, Parag, author. (2021). Move: the forces uprooting us. New York, N.Y.: Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc. 


Jessica Siegel

Jessica Leving Siegel is an award-winning writer and communications consultant with experience spanning the newspaper and magazine industry, the nonprofit sector, and the disability community. Before launching her creative agency, Sing Creative Group, she initially got her start as a journalist, writing for publications such as USA Today, The Boston Globe, The Jerusalem Post and more. When she realized she wanted to use her storytelling skills to champion the causes she cared most about, she moved into the nonprofit world, and spent 10 years working on internal comms teams for organizations such as The Jewish United Fund, Spertus Institute, The American Lung Association, and Walder Group. Now, she uses her expertise to help other changemakers hone their messaging and amplify their impact. Recent client PR wins have included hits in Parade, HuffPost, USA Today, The Chicago Tribune, ABC7 News, and more. She is also the author of three children’s books, host of The Special Siblings Podcast, and the founder of her own nonprofit organization, The Center for Siblings of People with Disabilities. In 2024, she mobilized the grassroots group North Shore Neighbors Say Bienvenidos to coordinate a humanitarian response to Chicago’s migrant crisis.  

Denny Roberts

Dennis C. Roberts is an independent consultant, speaker, and author. He last served as Assistant Vice President of Education for Qatar Foundation (QF). During his seven years with QF he worked with Qatari and expatriate colleagues to create the student development and support services for its branch universities at Education City in Doha, Qatar. Prior to working abroad, he was Associate Vice President of Student Affairs at Miami University. He is past president of ACPA-College Student Educators international and has been a member and presenter at the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators and the International Leadership Association throughout his career. He has authored 6 books and over 50 book chapters and other articles on student affairs, student learning, leadership, and internationalization.  

Ariel Kauffman

Ariel L. Kaufman currently works as the Assessment and Research Specialist with the Center for Leadership and Involvement (CfLI) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She earned her master’s degree from the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. For over fifteen years at UW-Madison with student affairs, academic units, and across campus units, she has enjoyed working collaboratively with students, staff, faculty, and community partners, especially in place-based civic engagement with community partners and in collaborative leadership for the public good.  She views assessment, evaluation, and research as ways to learn and improve programming. Ariel has been active in the International Leadership Association for over a decade, serving as 2017 Public Leadership chair, currently she serves as co-stream convenor for Public Leadership and on its Core Leadership team. She has organized ILA sessions and presented at conferences in Atlanta, Georgia, Washington D.C., Barcelona, SPAIN, Brussels, BELGIUM, Vancouver, BC, CANADA and more. 

Racquel Thiesen

As Director of Community Partnerships at the Kansas Leadership Center (KLC), Racquel Thiesen works to ensure that the leadership development and organizational support partners receive from KLC is what they need to achieve maximum impact at the community level. Much of her effort is centered around community leadership program partners in Kansas and beyond and KLC’s Leadership Transformation Grant partners. Racquel has worked to build community leadership programs for more than 25 years and has contributed to the strategic development and support of Transformation Grant partners for more than a decade.  She particularly enjoys energizing leadership development directors and volunteers to consider new ideas and dream larger for their local programs. KLC’s civic engagement initiatives for alumni in public service are also dear to her heart, as this is familiar work for Racquel. She was an elected official for 12 years and understands the challenges of exercising leadership from a position of authority on community issues. In addition to her responsibilities with community partnerships, Racquel is a KLC teacher and facilitator and travels widely representing the organization as a speaker and presenter.